5 HOT BOOKS: A Disease that Makes People Too Good, Thelma & Louise, and More

Here are five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:

1. Obama: The Call of History by Peter Baker (New York Times/Callaway)

Peter Baker covered all eight years of the Obama presidency for the New York Times, which gave him a front-row seat for moments of high drama – from the killing of Osama bin Laden to the rise of Donald Trump – and a close-in look at one of the more extraordinary individuals ever to call the White House home.  In this handsome book, Baker looks back on defining moments from Obama’s two terms and provides insight into the man himself.  Baker’s compelling prose is enhanced by an array of striking photographs that may make readers nostalgic for events that occurred less than a year ago.

2. The Mighty Franks by Michael Frank (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Married screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank wrote classics like Hud and Norma Rae, and adapted novels like Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.  In this engrossing memoir Michael Frank recalls growing up as the favored nephew and protégé of Uncle Irving and Aunt Hankie, against the backdrop of old Hollywood.  Frank recounts glamorous Aunt Hankie’s allure to him as a child – being made to “feel clever merely by being with her and listening to her” and “absorbing some of her spark – her sparkle.”  As he grew and began to move on, Aunt Hankie grew darker, more controlling, and erratic, imbuing poignant resonance in this beautifully written family portrait.

3. Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge by Becky Aikman (Penguin Press)

The 1991 blockbuster Thelma and Louise, starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, was a feminist twist on the classic American male road trip – and a resonant cultural moment.  Aikman, a former Newsday reporter and the author of Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives, drew on more than 150 interviews to provide the inside story of how Callie Khouri, a college dropout from Kentucky, rose from production assistant to an academy award for best original screenplay for a now-iconic film.  Aikman argues that Thelma and Louise remains, to this day, a high point in Hollywood’s spotty record of doing right by women.

4. Spoonbenders by Darryl Gregory by (Knopf)

This big-hearted novel focuses on generations of the eccentric Telemachus clan, a family of psychics.  There is a madcap charm to these characters, who are separated after a big public embarrassment, but reconnect two decades later. They are dreamers and bumblers, con artists and magicians, and their superpowers are not always fully functioning, but Gregory works his own magic, turning his motley crew into an engrossing family drama.

5. The Boy Who Loved Too Much by Jennifer Latson (Simon and Schuster)

Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that it affects one in 10,000 people, is characterized by an elfish appearance, sleeplessness, heart murmurs, and cognitive and developmental difficulties. It also, in what is often considered the flip-side of autism, obliterates social inhibition.  In this fascinating study of the disease, Latson tells the story of an indiscriminately trusting boy coming of age, and his mother’s attempts to help him navigate a world that poses an array of dangers for a child who believes everyone is his friend.